[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, N.C., MD.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Jul 24 11:02:40 CDT 2004
Longest-serving death row inmate declared retarded----Ruling means Bell
could get life and eventually be eligible for parole
A judge ruled Friday that Texas' longest-serving death row inmate is
retarded, a decision that could spare Walter Bell's life and make him
eligible for parole if upheld by an appeals court, officials said.
At a hearing in May, Bell's attorneys asked that his death sentence be
commuted to life in prison under a U.S. Supreme Court decision banning the
execution of retarded people. Prosecutors argued the ruling didn't apply
State District Judge Charles Carver's opinion said Bell, 50, fits the
Texas guidelines for mental retardation.
Bell, who arrived on death row 29 years ago, was condemned in the slayings
of Ferd and Irene Chisum at their Port Arthur home in 1974.
Jefferson County District Attorney Tom Maness said he wasn't surprised by
the ruling and didn't have a problem with it.
He said Carver had no alternative but to rule the way he did based on the
guidelines issued by the Supreme Court when in 2002 it ruled it is
unconstitutional to execute the mentally retarded.
Maness said he doesn't think the Supreme Court's decision allows judges
and juries to give enough weight to the actual crime itself and how a
defendant planned and performed a crime and hid from authorities after it
was done, as was the case with Bell.
"There is no doubt Walter Bell is not a rocket scientist as most criminals
aren't. But he did have the mental capability to plan and commit one of
the most horrible crimes in Jefferson County," he said.
But Bell's attorney, William Christian, disagreed.
"Walter Bell is exactly the kind of person the Supreme Court had in mind
when they were writing the Atkins decision. It reduces his culpability
with the ultimate penalty, the death penalty," he said.
As early as 1963, Bell was listed in Port Arthur public school records as
mentally retarded with an IQ in the mid 50s. The threshold for mental
retardation has been accepted as 70. Prosecutors said IQ tests of that era
have been criticized and could be flawed by as many as 15 points.
Carver's ruling will now be forwarded to the Court of Criminal Appeals,
Texas' highest criminal court.
Both Maness and Christian believe the appeals court will uphold the ruling
and decide to commute his death sentence to life in prison.
That would mean Bell could be eligible for parole.
"I suspect the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles will not be paroling"
defendants like him, Maness said. "These are the most serious offenders
that we have in this state, and I suspect that even though they are
eligible, they will not grant them parole and keep them (incarcerated ) to
a ripe old age. We are going to oppose parole."
Christian said for now he is only concerned about having his client's
sentence commuted to life in prison. It could be several months before the
appeals court makes its decision.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Man could get death penalty in nurse's slaying
A Nov. 1 trial date was set Friday for 1 of 2 suspects accused in the
slaying of nurse Tia Monae Carroway, who was kidnapped and fatally shot
after she left her job at Durham Regional Hospital for lunch in July 2002.
The suspect, 21-year-old Anthony Patterson Jr., pleaded not guilty Friday
to a charge of 1st-degree murder. He also entered not guilty pleas on
charges of 1st-degree kidnapping, armed robbery and felonious possession
of Carroway's stolen car.
District Attorney Jim Hardin Jr. then announced officially that the death
penalty would be sought against Patterson.
According to Hardin, capital punishment is an option because at least one
so-called "aggravating factor" exists in the case. He declined to specify
what that is.
The only possible penalties for 1st-degree murder are death or life in
prison without parole.
Patterson rejected a proffered deal Friday that would have eliminated the
threat of execution, sources close to the case said. Under the deal,
Patterson could have pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder and received a
life prison term, sparing court officials the time and expense of a
lengthy jury trial.
Because he turned the deal down, he stands a chance of becoming the first
person to receive the death penalty in Durham since the 1997 conviction of
Todd Charles Boggess.
Boggess was sentenced to die for fatally beating Wilmington honor student
Danny Pence in the woods of northern Durham County, off Terry Road. An
appeal is still pending.
Besides Boggess, only 2 people are on death row as a result of Durham
homicides. They are Isaac Jackson Stroud, who is facing execution for the
1993 slaying of Durham High School teacher Jocelyn Michelle Mitchell, and
Donald John Scanlon, convicted in the 1996 asphyxiation death of retired
schoolteacher Claudine Wilson Harris.
To vote for the death penalty, jurors must be convinced that at least one
aggravating factor exists in a case. They also must be persuaded that the
aggravating factor outweighs any offsetting factors in mitigation, and
that it is "sufficiently substantial" to merit capital punishment.
Carroway, 23, failed to return to her nursing job at Durham Regional after
she left for lunch on July 4, 2002.
The next day, police found her car on Roosevelt Street. Her body was
discovered in some woods near Hope Valley Farms in southern Durham. She
reportedly was shot in the back of the head.
Police said Carroway, the mother of a 2-year-old boy, apparently crossed
paths with Patterson and another man at a fast-food chicken restaurant.
She then was taken to Alben Street and shot, reports indicated.
The apparent motive in the homicide was to steal Carroway's 1994 Honda
Accord, police said.
According to reports, Patterson allegedly was caught with the car and the
suspected murder weapon.
A 2nd suspect, 21-year-old Naeem Rasheed Mahmoud, also is charged with
murder in the case.
A possible Dec. 1 trial date was set Friday for Mahmoud. However, court
officials said the proceedings would have to be postponed if Patterson's
trial wasn't finished by then.
(source: Herald Sun)
DNA leads to indictment in Arundel serial killings----Inmate Watson
charged in slayings in '80s, '93; could face death penalty
Mary Elaine Shereika was a dedicated runner, posting 6 to 10 miles a day
no matter what. Her daughter remembers her coming home with ice in her
hair from running in weather so cold that her perspiration froze.
And she was a careful runner, always hitting the pavement during the
daytime and in her own neighborhood.
Shereika, 37, was attacked one morning in May 1988, just a mile from her
house on Maytime Drive. A man dragged her into a rye field, then sexually
assaulted, beat, stabbed and strangled her.
Her killer, police say, tore through not only Shereika's family but also
three others - leaving six children without mothers and one mother without
her only daughter.
Anne Arundel County police believe that man is Alexander Wayne Watson Jr.,
34. He was indicted yesterday by a county grand jury on three counts of
first-degree murder. In Shereika's case, the additional charges of first-
and second-degree rape are aggravating factors that make him eligible for
the death penalty. Prosecutors say they will consult with the woman's
family before deciding whether to pursue it.
Watson was already serving life in prison for murder in Prince George's
County when, police say, they linked him through DNA evidence to three
killings in Anne Arundel County dating back more than a decade.
Until last week, those Anne Arundel families and communities had no
answers. They didn't know their stories would eventually be tied to a man
who police say was a serial killer who lived in the same neighborhoods as
his victims and began killing just after his 17th birthday.
Boontem Andersen had the day off from her job in a dining hall at Fort
It was Oct. 8, 1986, and she had spent the morning at her home on Snow
Hill Lane in the quiet Four Seasons neighborhood of Gambrills.
Andersen, 34, was a mother of 2, though her children lived with their
father. The Thailand native had recently gotten engaged to Ralph J.
Musser, 36, a sergeant at Fort Meade.
She spoke to a friend on the phone at 1 p.m. A short time later, police
say, a teenager who was acquainted with Musser's family and lived with his
parents on nearby Spring Lake Court entered the house and sexually
assaulted, stabbed and strangled her.
Her bound, unclothed body was found by the 11-year-old son of Andersen's
Police say they notified her children last week that Watson had been
charged. His indictment yesterday in Andersen's murder included charges of
1st- and 2nd-degree rape, but because he was a minor at the time, Watson
would not be eligible for the death penalty in this case, prosecutors say.
Police said Andersen's relatives did not want to discuss the case, and
attempts to reach them were unsuccessful.
Lisa Kathleen Haenel, a straight-A student at Old Mill High, was her
"When she was growing up, I used to say, 'It is just you and me, kid,'"
her mother, Meg Enck, told The Sun in October 1999.
Enck could not be reached for comment last week.
Lisa liked ladybugs, and the Enck house in Millersville is decorated with
ladybug flags and stained glass. She baby-sat neighborhood kids and
tutored fellow students - even those 2 years older than she was - in
At 5 feet 7, the hazel-eyed freshman with shoulder-length brown hair stood
taller than many of her classmates.
On Jan. 15, 1993, the 14-year-old cut through a path from her family's
Glen Burnie apartment, in the same complex where Watson had been living at
the time, to the high school.
That afternoon, a Friday, Lisa didn't come home.
Her mother called police, and the next morning Enck's boyfriend found
Lisa's body in a ravine off the path. She had been strangled and stabbed;
her blue Old Mill band jacket lay a few feet away.
School that next week was tough, recalls Mary Gable, Old Mill's principal
at the time.
Kids worried about walking to school, and administrators and teachers
reminded them to walk in pairs and stick to sidewalks.
"We were ill at ease for a long time," Gable says.
P. Thomas Shanahan, then an Anne Arundel police captain, remembers the
community being desperate for answers.
"This all-American girl can't even walk to school? It causes people to
lose faith in the police and lose confidence in their own safety," says
Shanahan, now the police chief.
"It was hard to tell people, 'We don't know who did this.'"
The office manager
Kirk Nicodemus had told his office manager to head home, but she didn't
want to leave just yet.
"Debra, what are you doing?" Nicodemus, owner of the small school
fund-raising business on D'Arcy Road in Prince George's County, recalls
asking her on his way out that June 13, 1994.
"I gotta count this money," she replied.
He reminded her to keep the door locked, and he left.
Debra Cobb, 37, lived with her husband and 2 sons in Largo. Both boys -
one in high school and one in junior high - played basketball, and their
mother loved to watch their games.
She was an attractive lady, Nicodemus says, who often wore her hair in
cornrows and had a bright smile and an easy way with customers.
About 15 minutes after her boss left, Cobb sat alone in the locked office
counting money. The manager of a moving company upstairs knocked on the
door, according to court records. The man asked to use the bathroom, and
she let him.
Later that evening, Nicodemus says, Cobb's husband, worried about why his
wife hadn't come home, drove to the office.
His wife had been handcuffed, robbed and stabbed 14 times, according to
Police soon arrested Watson, the manager upstairs. They'd found Cobb's
employee identification card in his desk and he confessed, court records
state. He pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder and was sentenced to life in
prison without parole.
In a letter to a judge before his sentencing in December 1994, Watson
blamed Cobb's killing on a crack cocaine addiction and said he'd made "a
Cobb's death left the handful of employees at Nicodemus and Associates -
now USA Fundraising Network - grief-stricken, Nicodemus says.
"It was beyond imagination," he says. "I remember every single second of
it. She was everything to us."
They knew it must have been far worse for her family.
A year after his mother's death, Nicodemus says, her eldest son died of a
The longest run
Mary Elaine Shereika had been going through a lot of changes since her
She was raising 2 teenagers on her own in the family's Four Seasons house.
She had started working - her divorce lawyer had hired her as a legal
secretary. She'd met a man and gotten engaged.
She'd even highlighted and cut her long, curly dark hair.
But she'd never stopped running.
She kept a running journal and tried to get her kids involved. They'd
follow her sometimes, on foot or on a bicycle. The children always cheered
her on at races.
On May 23, 1988, her office and Shereika's fiance both called police later
that day to report her missing. Her brutalized body was found in a rye
field not far from Waugh Chapel Road.
Her two children, Dan, then 13, and Jennifer, then 16, went to live with
different relatives on different coasts. Dan stayed in Maryland with his
father; Jennifer moved to California to live with her mother's oldest
Now 33 and living in southwest Virginia with two girls of her own,
Jennifer Shereika says she and her brother have remained close. He is now
in sales and lives in the Washington area.
Shereika's life is filled with reminders of her mother: Her 13-year-old
daughter is named after her and is "the spitting image" of her. An oil
painting of her mother, her brother and herself hangs in the hallway. And
Shereika has kept her mother's running journals and scrapbooks.
Her mother had told her kids that if she died, she wanted her ashes spread
on the roads that had served as her track.
It was difficult for Jennifer and Dan to carry out that wish.
"We knew that's what brought her peace ... running those roads every day,"
Jennifer Shereika says. "But knowing that that's how she died - where she
died - it was tough."
In the end, they spread Mary Shereika's ashes along Waugh Chapel Road,
stopping just short of the rye field.
(source: Baltimore Sun)
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